View Full Version : Effective Community Management

07-07-2004, 10:11 AM
Taken from my blog (http://www.markbridgeman.com/archives/2004/07/07/effective-community-management/). I hope it proves usefull to y'all :) --Mark

Effective Community Management
- Making Your Forums A *Nice* Place To Be

Communities are groups of people. They may be there to discuss the politics of the day; to share ideas on raising their new pet hamsters; finding out the latest cheat for an XBox game. It could be anything. But the pitfalls for them all are the same. And they can all be ruined, and turned into a wasteland of argument-filled discussions, cliques, and flame wars. Being able to spot the warning signs of these and other problems - or better yet, building a framework within which the community will grow and (hopefully!) be protected from these elements - is an important part of managing a forum-based community.

10 Ways To Keep Your Community Hap-Hap-Happy!

1. Deal with Trolls Ninja-Style!
Trolls (i.e., people who’s only wish is to cause problems and not participate normally) need to be dealt with immediately. At best, do is silently. Yes, you’ll have to be a community Ninja! Why silently? Because dealing with it publicly will only draw attention to it. If someone posts anything offensive, have it removed, and the user private-messaged (or emailed) with a warning. If they do it again, ban them outright. Advise your moderators to do the same. There should be no lee-way.

2. Make your users feel welcome
This should really be a given, but it’s amazing how many forums I visit where there is nothing as simple as a ‘Introduce Yourself’ forum. Don’t have one? MAKE ONE! If you own a forum, then you should encourage people to post - and the best way is to encourage them to introduce themselves, and then reply welcoming them. And encourage your moderators - and ‘normal’ users - to do the same. It gives new users a friendly welcome, and lets them experience that interaction we all desire from the get-go.

3. Surround yourself with good moderators
If you only have a small forum, you may feel comfortable running it yourself. And that’s fine. However, if you get to the point where a good deal of posting is happening while you’re not around, it may be time for you to bring in a moderator or two. The best way (in my opinion) is to notice any members that are contributing positively to the forums, and approach them privately to invite them to become moderators. Set out what would be expected of them (responsibilities), and what you will offer in return (perks), if anything. Make sure they’re nice people, people who your users get along with, and who YOU get along with. If a moderator ever shows any kind of anti-user attitude, it’s time to reconsider them.

4. Be part of your own community!
If you have a successful forum, it is important to remain part of it. Yes, a lot of time is taken up with maintaining the site, keeping the server ticking over, answering PMs and emails concerning the community, but you should always make sure you maintain a connection to your userbase. Posting just once a week would do it - people will realise you’re busy, but it will ensure they don’t see you as The Great Dictator.

5. Never - EVER - act like The Great Dictator!
I once visited a forum where the administrator posted, in these exact words, “It’s my site, and you’ll do what I say”. Sure, he had a point - it IS his site. And, in some instance, he does have final say in what happens on his site. But don’t talk this way towards your userbase. It may be his site, but he could easily have an empty forum if he doesn’t keep his attitude in check.

6. Effective communication - answer your damn emails!
I’ve fallen foul of this myself. On one busy community I was running a few years ago, a user sent me a message that didn’t require a reply - but the user was expecting one. And rightly so - I should have at least thanked him for the message, but I didn’t and it ended up coming back on me later when he said, public ally, how I never reply to messages. It was embarrassing to me (as it should have been), and was something that shouldn’t have happened. If a user sends you a message - even so much as to say ‘nice site!’ - you should respond. They are making the time to connect with you, and even a simple ‘thanks!’ will do more to contribute to making your site a pleasant place to visit than if you do nothing.

7. Don’t encourage cliques!
I was hired to oversee a community once where the previous administrator had made the mistake of not only encouraging a group of users to be cliquey (they’d even named themselves!), but to also provide a (public) forum for their own chatter - and installed the ‘head’ of the clique as the moderator. By the time I came onboard, not only had their sense of ‘owning’ the forum grown, but another group of people had grown to hold a grudge against them for what they saw (rightly) as special treatment. Which brings me to:

8. Treat everyone equally
All users are equal, regardless of their efforts to convince you otherwise! All users deserve respect, and you should be careful to never show bias against any particular individual or group. Yes, there will be times when you will need to take the side of an argument in an effort to stop it. But your stance should always be shown to be in the best interests of the community as a whole.

9. Take arguments/flame wars outside
People argue - it’s human nature. Sadly there are indeed people who cannot hold an opinion without expecting everyone else and their dog to agree with it - and will start the fireworks if they don’t! If you see two people arguing, step in immediately and ask them (preferably in private) to take their argument elsewhere (be it to email or private message). Having an argument on your forums will only encourage people to join in, and possibly cause bad blood.

10. It’s your community - enjoy it!
The day you grow tired of your community (if you ever do) will be a sad one. I had a community I’d built from scratch to have more than 30,000 registered members and over 2 million posts. And one day I woke up and couldn’t find the energy to deal with it anymore. My enjoyment of interacting with its members was at its lowest point, and so I did one of two things: I could have closed it and walked away, but what of these 30,000 people who still enjoyed it? (Ok, I doubt all 30,000 still visited every day! But I had 4-5,000 members who visited daily) So instead I simply sold it and walked away. It’s YOUR community - make sure you enjoy it! Be part of it, talk to its members, make friends, foster a welcoming, happy community and you will be happy with it.

07-07-2004, 11:25 AM
nice article.

07-07-2004, 11:27 AM
interesting article Mark :)

07-07-2004, 12:41 PM
Great post! Very nice.

07-07-2004, 01:44 PM
Thanks, chaps.